Well, well, well. What a week.

For those who are interested in Brexit, I am currently writing a short paper on the topic that I hope to make available via the Blog.

Right now, however, I want to cover political issues closer to home. Specifically, the release of the ATAP report. What is ATAP? Well, it’s simply a collaboration between Auckland Council, Auckland Transport, and Central Government that is designed to align plans for transport in Auckland. Not a bad idea.

ATAP recently released a report that has breathed fresh life into the road pricing debate. As many of you will know, TransportBlog has over the years expressed qualified support for the idea of road pricing. While we think it’s important to carefully consider 1) distributional impacts; 2) revenue neutrality; and 3) complementary transport investments (of all modes), these issues should not be allowed to scuttle discussion and research into road pricing. The potential benefits of road pricing are simply too large to ignore, IMO.

Not everyone, however, seems happy with ATAP’s recommendation that road pricing be investigated in the Auckland context. In this post I’m going to review statements made by three political parties in response to the ATAP report. In future posts, we hope to cover some of theory behind road pricing in more detail, and consider their implications for road pricing in Auckland.

1. The Government – Simon Bridges

In the past few years I’ve been somewhat critical of the Minister, as evidenced by posts on Bridges’ bridges and subsidies for electric lemons. We’ve also criticized the ineffective mega-motorway projects this Government has promoted, such as the East-West Link and Auckland Waitemata Harbour Crossing.

On the other hand, I’ve really been impressed with Bridges’ comments on road pricing, which have been refreshingly candid, informed, and balanced. Here’s a selection of what Bridges has had to say about the ATAP report in general, and road pricing in particular (source):

In the short term, more roading and public transport may … be necessary,” Mr Bridges told the Herald. “But that alone isn’t enough. We can’t keep building new lanes on highways.

We will need a combination of demand-side interventions if we are going to deal with congestion over the next couple of decades.

When pressed on his Government’s tepid support for road pricing in the past, Bridges made the following comment:

Asked why the change of heart, Mr Bridges said: “It is the evidence. What’s been shown quite clearly here is that a combination of technology, including pricing, can dramatically lessen congestion on the network.”

In the same interview, Bridges noted that (1) road pricing was intended to manage demand, not raise revenue (even if the revenue could be used to accelerate some specific projects) and (2) road pricing would only be introduced over a period of 10 years, if further research found it to be effective. In these comments, Bridges demonstrated:

  1. An awareness that supply-side transport interventions will not, on their own, be a cost-effective way to manage the growth in travel demands Auckland is experiencing;
  2. A willingness to engage with complex issues, and to change his position if doing so is justified by evidence. This is something that is often hard for politicians to do, and I think is something to celebrate when such changes are based on new evidence coming to light;
  3. An acceptance that if road pricing is implemented, then it should be to manage demand – not raise revenue. This is an approach the Blog has supported for many years.; and
  4. An understanding that several years of research and discussion are necessary before road pricing can be implemented.

In short, I thought Bridges’ comments were candid, informed, and balanced. Bravo. The two issues he doesn’t appear to discuss in detail was (1) distributional impacts, although further research would seek to clarify the nature of these impacts and (2) the need for complementary transport investments to manage anticipated demands from road pricing. While there’s still room for improvement, it’s heartening to seem Bridges take a somewhat bold position on an important issue.

2. The Labour Party – Phil Twyford

Now for a different perspective. In response to the ATAP report, Labour Party MP Phil Twyford commented as follows (source):

The Government wants to tax Aucklanders thousands of dollars a year just to use the motorway network … the average Aucklander … would pay new congestion charges of between $185 and $2461 per year.

National has allowed the gridlock on Auckland roads to get steadily worse over the past eight years, leaving Aucklanders to sweat it out daily in traffic jams … Now they want to whack commuters with a massive tax for the privilege of using a road network that they’ve already paid for with their petrol taxes and road user charges.

I feel Twyford is being overly dramatic, and would like to clarify a few relevant issues from my perspective:

  • The last Labour Government also looked into road pricing; you can still find the reports here. While it ultimately didn’t go anywhere, ATAP is simply a continuation of a debate that started under Labour. In the intervening decade, technology has of course improved considerably.
  • In a revenue neutral situation, the revenue from road pricing would be used to reduce taxes elsewhere. Or increase welfare payments to low income households. Until we know the precise details of the scheme, we won’t know who wins/loses, or to what degree, so any statements to this effect are simply premature.
  • As the ATAP report shows, government spending on transport in Auckland has increased to approximately 2.5% of GDP. This is high by historical standards, and more than most OECD countries. In a nutshell? Both Labour and National have spent buttloads on transport in recent decades; the supply side has received plenty of attention.
  • Transport projects take time to design and construct. Most of the highway projects being completed now were planned under the last Labour Government, even if they have been accelerated under National. Thus, you cannot blame all of today’s problems on National; the transport system reflects decisions made over decades.
  • The road network is never “paid for”, at least not in the way that Twyford implies. Operating costs, the opportunity cost of land, capital improvements, and externalities, such as congestion, noise, and air pollution, are all examples of costs associated with roads that are incurred continuously over time.

On the other hand, it is true that this Government has spent billions on relatively ineffective road projects, such as Puhoi-Wellsford, SH18-SH1 connection, the East-West Link, and Kirkbridge Rd grade separation. These projects do little for congestion compared to their costs, and is something that Twyford is justified in criticising.

Twyford also had this to say:

Without a massive improvement to the public transport system as a viable alternative to driving on the motorways at peak hours, it would be utterly unfair to charge people thousands of dollars extra a year …

The first thing I want note is that it’s not immediately clear road pricing requires complementary public transport investment. The experience in London and Stockholm, for example, was that road pricing caused a ~20% reduction in vehicle travel but only a small shift to PT. In London’s case buses were the big beneficiary of less congested roads, as you can imagine. Personally, I’d expect road pricing would justify some selective investments in PT, but this shift should not be overplayed. The second thing to note is that the statement is duplicitous. Why? Well, the ATAP report considers how road pricing impacts on the demand for PT, and identifies where PT infrastructure and services may need to be improved. Put simply, the ATAP report does not present road pricing as a standalone solution, but instead considers it as part of a wider transport plan. As it should be.

Some of the issues with Twyford’s argument are highlighted in this Radio New Zealand interview, in which he moderates some of his positions under pressure by the interviewer. Twyford makes an excellent point with respect to the North-western Busway: It does seem to be a clear situation where road pricing might create the need for a project to be accelerated.

One other issue worth considering: In a recent press release, Twyford advocated for removing Auckland’s urban growth boundary and shifting costs on developers (NB: evidence suggests costs will ultimately be paid for by occupants, but that’s besides the point). ATAP shows that even with additional infrastructure investment, Auckland would still experience ongoing congestion. The latter might even worsen without an urban growth boundary. So while getting rid of regulations is well and good, it won’t mean congestion disappears. To put it another way, changing the way we fund transport infrastructure from rates to development taxes doesn’t mean that demand management is not beneficial.

Ultimately, I think Twyford needs to take a longer-term perspective on the issue of road pricing. Rather than trying to assail the Government to shut the conversation down, Twyford should be supporting the need for a 5-10 year investigation that gives serious attention to distributional impacts and complementary transport investments. I really don’t see any reason to get emotional before the details of possible schemes are worked through.

3. The Green Party – Julie-Anne Genter

In this interview Genter advances the Green Party’s position on ATAP’s road pricing proposal and also argues for more investment in public transport before road pricing can be implemented. As noted above, I suspect this issue tends to be over-played, simply because the benefits of road pricing don’t necessarily require huge mode shift, as Stockholm and London demonstrate. There’s also several other reasons to push back on the notion that road pricing is not a priority until public transport is improved.

The first reason is that investment in public transport won’t reduce congestion for those who continue to travel by car. In a city that is growing as fast as Auckland, even massive investment in public transport won’t maintain vehicle demands at present levels. By extension, even with significant public transport investment, there will be many, many vehicle trips that will continue to suffer from congestion. Commercial vehicles being a prime example: Why leave these vehicles sitting in congestion, when they are prepared to pay for faster and more reliable travel? One of the key benefits of road pricing is that it enables commercial vehicles to do their thang. And that generally benefits all of us.

The second issue is that, as noted above, ATAP does consider complementary transport investments to support road pricing. There is probably sufficient time between now and when road pricing is implemented to complete the CRL, extend electrified rail services to Pukekohe, progress extension of the Northern and AMETI busways, and construct key elements of the North-west busway. It may even be possible to implement LRT on Dominion Rd within 10 years. Auckland will within 10 years have a much better bus network with higher frequencies and capacity. Now, I appreciate completing all these projects would require a change in Government priorities, and that it’s important to highlight this need, but such things are kind of what the ATAP process is all about. Of course, if and when PT investments are rolled out, we may find that we can delay implementing road pricing, which is all well and good – but the opportunity to avoid road pricing through PT investment shouldn’t stop us (a priori) from discussing how we might implement road pricing.

Basically, I’m suggesting that the Greens should express conditional support for the idea of road pricing, subject to more detail on the nature and timing of its implementation. I don’t think saying “it’s not a priority we should do other things first” is a sufficiently strong reason to object to the recommendations of the ATAP report, at least at this stage.

Wrapping up

All in all I am happy to see the road pricing debate reinvigorated. I’m particularly impressed with comments from Simon Bridges, which are candid, informed, and balanced. Twyford and Genter are justified in highlighting that (1) implementing road pricing will likely require some complementary transport investments and (2) this will likely require the Government place a greater emphasis on public transport than the have in the past.

On the other hand, the positions adopted by both Labour and the Greens come across as overly negative. While I can appreciate this is the general nature of political opposition in New Zealand, I feel that they might want to step back from the political coal face on this particular issue. Road pricing is not a discussion that needs to be rushed, nor should it be shut down. It seems to me that the more reasonable position is to express conditional support, with some specific caveats on where the ATAP research should head.

As something that will take several years to develop, we have the chance to discuss the nitty gritty of road pricing means in the Auckland context without committing to anything. Why fall into hard and fast negative positions before then?

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46 comments

  1. I see that NZTA have announced today that they don’t see a future for rail to the airport and are only interested in LR or busway to airport if AT decide they want it (or rather they want to get rid of rail from Onehunga)
    What a short sighted decision.

      1. Stephen here has the link…
        of course NZTA want to keep it on the DL.

        I originally wanted HR via Onehunga, but as that route has become affected I have warmed to and now endorse this blogs position that the best option is HR via Otahuhu for the following reasons: 1) It is just as direct effectively as Onehunga, 2) It would be cheaper than via Onehunga due to not needing a new bridge across the harbour (and the new E-W link), 3) it actually works better with the network (especially if at some future date Avondale-Southdown Line is built), 4) works better for people coming from the South or East and makes no difference for those coming from the North (except those around Onehunga itself or the future isthmus LR routes – even then it’s not the end of the world for them).

        Perhaps now is the time for this blog and it’s leading contributors (along with Gen0 etc) to really make a public push now for the Otahuhu option before NZTA gets away with this and AT gives up and goes for the cheap (actually not that cheap), slower and not as pleasant LR option. If the media can get behind the Otahuhu option then this could lead to an about face from NZTA, Minister Bridges and AT.

        1. Yes good suggestion and is something I have been mulling. My preferred approach would consist of BRT connections from City — Airport — Papatoetoe in short term while planning for the heavy rail connection to the airport via Otahuhu as and when warranted by passenger volumes and congestion etc.

          1. If they make a decision now that they want HR via Otahuhu and they made all the correct land designations and locked those in and made AKL airport build for HR then yes they could use BRT in the meantime.
            Thing is the Onehunga option was costed at $2.2B for a couple of reasons: 1) Bridge over the harbour (including approaches): this probably accounts for $400m of the cost. 2) Double-tracking Onehunga Line, this probably is another $100m.
            So straight away without those you have saved $500m. Otahuhu would also be a shorter route (3.2km vs 4.6km to the point where they would meet) over a relatively easy to build on flat piece of land with just a handful of old houses in the way (which could be redeveloped into high density with good rail access making that house part cost positive rather than negative) so that would also save around $100m in build costs.
            That means HR to the airport would now be coming in around $1.6B which when compared to $1.1B for LR (from Onehunga only-Airport) makes it quite favourable especially when it will save at least 5 minutes (from AT timing proposal which is of course completely ridiculous as LR would be held up along the way along Dominion Rd or wherever making it more like a 15 minute difference and airport passengers would be jammed in with office workers commuting in to work at least moreso than HR or even worse they would be taking up space on the LR that is needed for those office workers etc vs HR where it would actually be resulting in more services on the Southern Line).

          2. I agree. That BRT link from Papatoetoe or Otahuhu (using the proposed bus lanes on Massey Rd) would make huge sense as a ‘get by’ measure.

    1. It’s interesting. ATAP in general and road pricing in particular really do change the game.

      That said atao is not yet complete. So there’s a lot of decisions being made now, e.g. airport rail, lrt etc, which may need to be revisited post atap. Asap.

      Catch my drift?

    2. Yes this is a done deal, sadly. There’s a lot of moving parts here: Including NZTA’s multi year sabotage of the Onehunga route. And AC and others’ refusal to consider the Otahuhu option. MoT, NZTA, and others have never believed in rail through Mangere to the Airport, and have carelessly/actively piled prohibative cost on it, and have succeeded in killing it. The airport too want the easier to accomodate surface option; also being at best lukewarm on it at all, so think short term. Even senior AT people seem to accept the low numbers of users that our always-wrong models assume.

      This has implications way beyond the immediate area, particularly on how our RTN networks function and interact, in fact all the way to the Shore, how exactly?, I will post about that shortly.

      And LR to the Airport first requires LR 1: Dom/Queen, which the same Wellington institutions are also fighting… poor Mangere, all it gets is severance and congestion.

      1. The Airport Company are making a frigging fortune on car parking which has huge downside risk from comprehensive heavy rail so of course they prevaricate and obsfurcate. So much for the value of being owned by we the people.

    3. Heavy rail from Onehunga is the most expensive route they could choose, there are two other cheaper options and if you join them together you end up with a loop.

  2. Stu, excellent summaries, but I think you underplay the importance of complementary networks in cities with road pricing. Both London and Stockholm have very mature PT networks when pricing was introduced. Driving already a minor mode share in the centre of London where the charge is. Having said that I agree that post CRL, AMETI, New Network, NW busway, and LRT, etc, AKL will be a profoundly improved place PT wise. It has always been our contention that it is relatively easy to retrofit really good PT networks into AKL, with political will and the rational allocation of resources.

    1. Let me try and make a subtle point. I agree complementary pt investment is desirable, because it increases elasticity of demand.

      I do not, however, agree that we should avoid discussions on road pricing until some future date that we have a pt network that meets the grade, however defined.

      Lets build while talking. The other thing pricing does is improve the business case for pt. So if you want to build pt, then you should be supporting a converstion on road pricing and its inplementation at a future date.

    2. Here’s the catch: it is absurdly difficult to get around in Auckland without driving. In European cities, if you don’t want to pay the congestion charge you can still walk somewhere, or cycle somewhere (well, not in London) or take PT somewhere. In Auckland, for the most part the only alternative is staying home.

      I mean, look around on the North Shore. If you build for cars, you don’t have to cluster shops together in a town centre. What you see instead is big boxes somewhere random, and a lot smaller shops are scattered around in the “light industry” areas, like the one in Wairau Valley. The same in Penrose and the area around Sylvia park. The amount of those shops you can reach by PT is vanishingly small. Going between shops is incredibly time-consuming without a car. At least at Sylvia park the train station is next to the mall. In Albany on the other hand, well…

      All of that assumes you can get on PT in the first place. Let’s see how long it takes before someone figures out that it actually makes sense to have higher density near transit. In the PAUP a big blob of higher-density zoning can be found in Northcote. What cannot be found anywhere nearby is a frequent PT service. Oops. Meanwhile we can enjoy golfing across Smales Farm.

      Same story in the CBD. That was a very bad surprise after I moved there. Where can I go within 30 minutes from home [on the Hobson Street ridge], using only walking and PT? In the weekends, that answer is “everything within walking distance”, and I think Birkenhead and Takapuna, and that’s it. Even with some moderate congestion, and assuming you have to walk a few minutes to your car, you can still get to most of the isthmus in that time. It’s a bit better during weekdays, but the crippling limitation is the fact that both Britomart and Symonds Street are already more than 15 minutes walk away.

      A car on the other hand can bring you anywhere on the isthmus and the lower North Shore, even when factoring in the time you need to walk to your carpark and the time waste in congestion. The difference is enormous.

      So what’s in the news? Rail to airport axed. And what’s with the idea of cross-town services? There is not much ambition for improvements. The option of moving somewhere closer to work or PT is closed off by zoning and land costs as well. Congestion charging could very well end up being like a tax—unavoidable.

      1. Not quite sure of your point here.

        The reality is that a large and growing No of people are using PT (at least, the RTN component of it) despite all that you say above. Somehow lots of people are managing to make PT work for themselves, in spite of the acknowledged decades of urban planning only around the car. So surely a little congestion-charging could be applied to help build on this trend.

        Also don’t forget that roads which are “free at the point of use” tend to attract a proportion of trivial journeys which probably would not be made, or would be made a little more discerningly, if charging were applied. It would help to get such traffic off the roads at peak times.

        1. An increasing amount of people are using PT—yes, but (1) we’re coming from a very deep low, and (2) how much of these are commuting into the CBD? There is a reason why during the morning peak the NEX drives to the city every minute, while it drives towards Albany only every 10 minutes. And also, that RTN component covers only so much of Auckland.

          It’s a good idea, sure. But as others pointed out before, London has this thing called the Underground. So I’d expect it to work better in London than over here.

        1. Of course you can walk. I was referring to the cycling part. Not that you need a bicycle though, you can easily get around by just walking and taking the Underground.

  3. Phil Twyford’s combination of positions on road pricing and the growth boundary are hard to understand. I full support him on the growth boundary issue but only if land use and transport decisions are made in the face of their true costs. Almost everyone who is serious about abolishing the growth boundary agrees with this. Road pricing is the optimum way for drivers to face the true costs of driving. Supporting abolishing the growth boundary but taking a status quo approach to road pricing and transport infrastructure development amounts to subsidising sprawl.

    1. Yes, exactly. Well said. He seems to be taking incoherent policy positions solely to attack the government. Not impressive.

  4. 1. Why do we need to delay congestion charging by years?
    2. Stockholm’s experience was that no-one knows where the people went, they all claimed they hadn’t changed their commuting habits (according to Jonas Eliasson’s TED talk). And his take home message was – don’t over think the details, just nudge people in the right direction and let them take the best solution for their needs (It might be moving closer to where they work, changing jobs so you are working closer to home, working from home for some or all of the time, car sharing, or biking – not just public transport). And just like Eliasson’s example of planning London’s bread deliveries – you don’t do it – you don’t sweat the details, let people decide). So we shouldn’t wait for some mythical never never land when we finally have a really good PT system completely in place, we can start right now.
    Cheers
    Peter
    ps disappointed that Bridges sounded better than Twiford and even Julianne Genter.

    1. I think there’s a couple of good reasons to wait:
      1. Build a broad base of political support – Even if you hit go immediately road pricing would take time to implement. Because NZ operates on a 3 year political cycle, it’s possible the government changed during the implementation process. You don’t want to rush ahead without general agreement from other parties.
      2. Where to live and work are long run decisions – the more advance notice we can give people of the nature and timing of road pricing, then the more people will allow for it in their forward planning. Expectations matter, and positively shaping those expectations over the course of a couple of years can smooth the path considerably. Consider people buying out at Hobsonville now: It’s possible that road pricing would affect their decision.
      3. Implementation issues – There’s some important implementation issues to resolve, such as pricing, technology, privacy, and distributional impacts. I don’t pretend to have all the answers.
      4 Complementary investments – Allowing some time means you can bring forward some complementary PT projects, such as NW busway.

    2. “(It might be moving closer to where they work, changing jobs so you are working closer to home, working from home for some or all of the time, car sharing, or biking – not just public transport). ”
      Or it might even be, motorcycling, shock horror. Heaven forbid that someone might even consider a motocycle as a viable alternative to the motorcar.

  5. So instead of using the carrot (creating decent alternatives to driving), transport blog prefers the stick (charge people extra to drive on roads they are already paying for through petrol tax).
    I think Auckland is a very different scenario to London. In Auckland, the quickest way into work for most people, normally by a considerable margin, is to drive. A congestion charge is going to be an extra tax on the majority of commuters, most not having any decent alternative.

    1. Its not a stick. Its about providing decongested roads which will be of benefit to anyone who values their time (or any business who values the time required for a vehicle and goods and driver to go from A to B). If we had a scenario where everyone had to line up for an hour a day to get their allotment of government subsidised bread, and then we decided to move from that to our current market based system, would you consider that change a “stick” for bread consumers?

      1. If the government were the only organisation capable of making bread, I would prefer them to make more bread than to jack the price up so only the rich can afford bread.

        1. Well the problem is that providing “enough” roadspace is just that: prohibitively expensive. We cannot afford to all get around by car congestion-free.

          Watch the news. East-west is going to cost almost 2 billion for just 4 km. More billions needed to open up greenfields. More billions if we want to build an extra harbour crossing. Probably even more billions to widen SH1 and the spaghetti junction. For probably nothing more than a short little blip in the amount congestion. I’m not optimistic about providing more roadspace.

        2. And what if it turned out that some people couldnt get enough bread in any circumstances and others were using it to feed their dogs with or turn into compost for their garden?

        3. The question would then be how is the additional bread paid for? Should the government raise taxes for the additional bread? Should this be general taxation or some kind of user pays like we have with fuel taxes and road user charges? or perhaps borrow money to pay for it?
          what if you only need 1 loaf but because you aren’t directly paying for it you decide to take two, even though the second loaf is only of marginal benefit to you?
          If road pricing was made revenue neutral, then while it would be impossible to avoid having some winners and losers, We should be able to ensure that most people can still afford to travel when they need to. An option that might be worth pursuing is free or an increased subsidy on public transport for community service card holders.
          If it is effective at de-congesting roads then there is an immediate cost benefit of consuming less petrol to make the trip. this saving alone could neutralise a lot of the cost. I.e. you pay $2 to use a de-congested road but because you are not stuck in traffic you save $2 in petrol.

        4. What is the difference between applying a congestion-charge and raising public-transport fares?The latter everyone expects will happen from time to time, even if they are not happy about it?

          PT fares go from a lower price to a higher price which some bureaucrat in their wisdom deems appropriate.
          Congestion-charging goes from a zero-base to some non-zero value, determined again by bureaucracy.

          The difference is that road-use should probably never have been free-at-the-point-of-use in the first place, as this has led to major market-distortion and hugely-inefficient resource-allocation. Akin to offering everybody free bread and then spending a fortune expanding bakery-capacity (and health services) as people give up on eating anything else.

          Congestion charging is merely a step towards rectifying this absurdity.

    2. I think this is for the long term once the CRL, Ameti and hopefully even NW busway are up and running. Also my read on it was it would be a replacement for the fuel tax in Auckland, although I haven’t seen that written explicitly anywhere.

    3. Did you read the post jimbo? Revenue neutral road pricing by definition would mean people didn’t pay more overall. Yes they pay more to drive, but they pay less in other taxes. Like fuel taxes for example.

  6. I support a congestion charge, but I think JAG and Twyford have a partial point. The experience in London and Stockholm is that car trips aren’t replaced 1:1 by PT trips, but:

    a) They were working from a much higher base PT modeshare, so I’d expect the effect to be more dramatic in Auckland; and

    b) Even if it only drives a relatively modest increase in PT demand, we’ve seen how AT copes with a relatively modest and predictable increase in demand every March. We’d need some political leadership to get AT to come up with an actual plan ahead of time, and some extra investment would be needed to increase capacity.

    Otherwise, the argument that we can’t do anything to inconvenience SOVs before we have a mature PT network reminds me of this conversation that I keep having:

    Me: *grumble grumble the bus was stuck in traffic all the way up New North Rd, need proper bus lanes*
    A colleague: Oh but driving is already so annoying in town, we can’t make it worse until PT is better
    Me: …

    1. Yes I agree, as noted in the post. Some pt improvements will likely need to be accelerated if we implement road pricing. Nw busway and city centre bus improvements being obvious candidates, plus rail electrification to pukekohe. Beyond that im open to ideas but i think it needs to be evidence based, i.e. have positive bcrs rather than just “we want pt before road pricing”.

  7. Listening to Minister Bridges on “Morning Report” the other day, it seems that he considers “Completion of the road network” necessary before implementing road-pricing. So does this imply the EWC and AWHC before any move on charging?

    He also stated to the effect that “Once the Roading and PT networks are ‘complete’ there is no further option for infrastructure expansion. . ., You can’t build more motorway lanes, or ‘another CRL‘. . .” So, no ministerial vision for Airport Rail, North Shore Rail, Eastern Rail or anything. Personally I don’t find Mr Bridges much different from his predecessors, as far as spending priorities and overall policy are concerned.

    1. Another CRL would be a fairly trivial thing to think of surely?? NW motorway line to North Shore line for example? Underground Queen St/ Symonds St LRT for more capacity.

    2. I think he is just making the general case that you get diminishing returns from additional investment. We naturally carry out the highest value compared to cost projects first, and the ones that could come after wont give the same bang for buck. So even if the CRL will be really amazing, you cant get double the amazing by building two CRLs.

    3. A ten year delay in implementing the effective reforms of variable road prices with increased public transport investment could do a lot of damage. Especially if Simon Bridges is the nice looking Trojan Horse for another massive motorway expansion -RoNS 2.0.

  8. Far too few people realise about congestion pricing, is that if it is done right, it increases the amount of vehicles getting through a given lane in a given time. Therefore, it is not so much a question of “pricing off” some travelers, as increasing speed of travel, INCREASING the number of travelers BECAUSE the speed is maintained, and getting some revenue in return.

    This is because of the relationship between demand and flow. It is possible for more than 2000 vehicles per hour to get through per road lane; however, when you get spikes in the number of vehicles trying to use the road, the flow jams up and the speed drops even to “stop-start” levels – below 1000 vehicles per hour. This is why congestion delays by city are almost exponentially different – once you have network breakdown, you have delays several times as high as otherwise, not just a few percent different. NZ’s expert David Lupton is clear on this, but is constantly frustrated by the inability of pretty much everyone else to “get it”.

    If you set the charges at the right level to avoid the spikes in demand that overload the corridor, flow should be maintained between 1600 and 2000 vehicles per lane per hour, which is a lot more than 1000 per lane per hour, which is what we end up with a lot of the time. This is so much of a win-win scenario, it is a no-brainer to do it. The problem is the complexity and the failure of so many experts, let alone the voting public, to understand it.

    With correct pricing, you could get the number of vehicles through a given corridor, that are currently taking 3 hours with stop-start speeds prevailing for much of that time, in not much more than half the time, at twice the speed or more. Maintaining flow should be the main objective. The problem with ramp metering is that it substitutes a delay at the ramp for a delay on the highway, and in any case it is not maintaining flow on the highway as fast as should be possible. Pricing, varied by time, should motivate enough people to change their travel time away from the spikes in demand that are making flow break down, so as to eliminate these brief overloads that then slow the flow down for the next hour or three.

    By the way, in international studies on lane flow and “breakdown”, 2300 vehicles per hour is a more normal peak; Auckland seldom exceeds 2000. I am told that 3300 per lane per hour has been observed in some countries as a kind of record – requiring both sustained speed and unsafe following distances! I think the problem we have, is with small-minded Kiwi drivers attitudes to lane discipline, and a lower number of lanes in urban highways, by international standards. Flow can break down sooner when there is less likelihood of being able to pass slower vehicles by changing lanes.

    1. That is good in theory but when there are artificial bottle necks like Mt Wellington (three lanes into two then back to three) and ramp signals on motorway to motorway links (SH20-1 at Manukau, SH16-1 at the CMJ and soon to be SH20-16 at Waterview) there is stall going to be stationary traffic on the motorways during peak time.

      1. Pricing to maintain flow on the 2-lane portion is still better than leaving it as “stop-start” – even if the 3-lane portions end up under-utilised. It is not a “theory”, it is an observation of reality. It has been proven successful on priced lanes in a few US cities that have been enlightened enough to try it. The problem is that the lane that is flowing due to pricing, appears to be “partly empty” compared to the adjacent slow-moving lanes; whereas in fact more cars are getting through on it, so it is a win-win situation, not a win-lose one. Voters ignorantly assume the opposite due to misleading appearances.

        Of course pricing “both lanes” when you only have two, is better than pricing only one of them. But of course it is ludicrous to have the 2-lane choke points still there, which belies the idea that we have had car-mad government. Actually Auckland is straight-out under-provided with highway and arterial lane-miles and even street space, by any standards; European as well as US.

        1. I am well aware of the reason for the artificial bottle neck but I was replying to a comment that mentioned with the ‘toll’ (for lack of a better term) will make traffic flow faster and get more vehicles per lane.

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